Facebook lists today as our ‘birthday.’ Here’s what really happened on this day twenty-two years ago.
You probably already know that the Dominican Order is around 800 years old. Saint Dominic established the first Dominican convent in 1206 with the first Dominican nuns in Prouille, France. In the centuries since, thousands of Dominican congregations have formed throughout the world.
Three groups, though, are most special to us. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, three exceptional women founded Dominican congregations to proclaim the Word of God to an immigrant Church in the United States. Mother Bertrand Sheridan, Mother Augustine Neuhierl, and Mother Mary Walsh began their religious journeys on three separate paths in three separate parts of the United States: two in New York and one in Massachusetts. The congregations they founded came to be known respectively as the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena of Fall River, Massachusetts; the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Newburgh, New York; and the Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor of the Immaculate Conception of Ossining, New York.
The Dominican Sisters of Newburgh and Fall River were primarily teaching congregations, while the Dominican Sisters of Ossining were nurses.
Through decades of major change in Church and society, these sisters prayed, ministered, studied, and practiced community. Yet, as early as 1981 (some say earlier!), “the spirit stirred them” to collaborate with others who share the Dominican charism. They imagined a collaboration in which no group would have to abandon its individual identity, but in which they could all grow togteher.
Thus, a new Dominican congregation was formed. On July 20, 1995, the three Dominican groups from Fall River, MA; Newburgh, NY; and Ossining, NY celebrated the formal founding of the Dominican Sisters of Hope.
How We Got the Name HOPE (as told by the Dominican Sisters of Hope):
It was the last day of our chapter meeting, a very special Sunday morning, and time to name our new congregation. The day before we had listed possible names on newsprint, talked about them, affirmed some names and ignored others. We were tired and couldn’t see how we would be able to settle on a name together. We had ended the day before with no consensus, and no real excitement. However, we placed ourselves in the presence of God and returned to the task. Sisters began to approach the microphones at various locations in the room, each of them speaking in support of one of the names. Still there was no real excitement.
Then something happened. There was an alertness among us that hadn’t been there before, a kind of hum spreading through the room, much nodding, sounds of agreement, one word spoken over and over. The sound grew louder and we were laughing. As one Sister later said, “You could see excitement jumping from table to table. It was a little epiphany, a small Pentecost.”
The word on newsprint that we had seen so often, that had been spoken so casually throughout our lives, taken so much for granted, we now saw as if for the very first time: HOPE.
All of a sudden and from the beginning of time, Hope was our mission, the meaning of our Gospel study, the crying need of our times, the truth of our existence, the identity that we claimed together.
The Spirit named us “Dominican Sisters of Hope.”
Since the launch of our website, we’ve shared stories about how our sisters live out hope. This week, in honor of our founding, we’re asking you share www.ophope.org with a friend.
Let’s spread hope!